3rd Sunday of Lent

Luke 13:1-9

Every time and generation has to struggle with tragedy, injustice, terrorism, unexplained death.  The experiences of the past couple of weeks are not greatly different to what the Apostles experienced and came to Jesus looking for explanations.  They came to Jesus and told him how some Galileans had died, victims of Pilate’s anger, they wondered how God could allow this to happen.  Instead of explaining it, Jesus asks them “Do you think that they were more guilty of sin than the other people who did not die?  He goes on; “unless you repent of sin you will all perish as they did”. 

Real repentance is a reflection on whatever is unfruitful in our lifestyle.  The words of Jesus, “Repent or you will perish” remind us of the words of Socrates after his trial when he chose to die rather than go into exile: “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  The parable of the fruitless fig-tree is not about doing wrong but about failure to do what is positively right.  The fig tree that bore no fruit is like the smug Christian who makes no effort to do positive good works, lives a purely selfish life.  We might ask ourselves: “What sort of image do I give by my way of living?”

St Francis of Assisi once invited a young friar to go with him into town to preach.  They spent the day walking through the streets and then came home.  When the day’s journey was done, the young friar was disappointed and asked “Weren’t we supposed to preach today?”  Francis replied, “Son, we have preached.  We were preaching while we were walking.  We were seen by many and our behaviour was noted.  It is of no use walking anywhere unless we preach wherever we walk!”  He summed up his idea: “Preach the Gospel everywhere, and if necessary, use words”

In the parable of the fig tree we can, perhaps, see ourselves in the place of the fig tree. We need to be given another chance, so often.  And we need to be nurtured and nourished if we are to bear fruit.  Also we need to see ourselves in the role of the gardener, who looks with compassion on those who are needy and nourishes them by our love and mercy and understanding.